From Pushover to Powerhouse—Guarding Your Heart=Healthy Boundaries

I. Finally. Got. Tired.Not any old tired. Not irritated. Not even exhausted. No, I got: “the straw that broke the camel’s back” tired.

Tired of making excuses for people treating others poorly. Tired of people making excuses for people treating me poorly. Tired of me treating myself poorly. For most of my life, I’ve made excuses for all this bad behavior—until now.

What changed? I. Got. Angry. Not a sinful anger, but a healthy anger where something inside just said, “no.” It was a rush of clarity.

I wondered … Am I gullible? Am I too nice? I used that anger and, like David, I got to praying. 

I begged God to reveal what I needed to change to make my heart—and resources—safer from those who would take advantage of me. 

I asked God to just make me thicker-skinned, but instead, I heard Him say the word: Discernment.

Discernment. A trait I wasn’t comfortable using because I grew up in the Hispanic culture, where often women are nurturers, givers, and people who sacrifice for anyone. I needed to add wisdom to the gift of my upbringing.

What happened next is more than I could have imagined and everything I needed.

I learned to take a pause. The next time I was asked to invest my time, give my resources, or donate money, I paused, inhaled, and asked if I could get back to the person. I gave myself space to ask questions and collect information about the request. Was it wise? Was I enabling someone or something? Would this be one in a string of things I’d tie myself to? 

I began to listen with godly logic which protected my heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This gave me space to clearly evaluate facts. This is easier to do when separated from emotion.

I had to learn to say no. This was hard because I’d tied being liked to overcommit myself in every way. I went back to God for strength, and ultimately “no” became easier to say. I now measure my decisions with caution and respond honestly with wisdom and grace. 

One of the most challenging things I faced was trust. I used to freely trust people and continually ended up wounded. That was not God’s best for me. Now, armed with God’s discernment, I allow people the opportunity to earn my trust over time. I place a high value on my trust now, and it has made a difference.

 As Ephesians 5:6 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” Incorporating Paul’s words helps navigate all relationships while honoring your commitment to yourself. 

Having made my small share of partner decisions based on emotion, hope, and love, I look back and wish I would have rooted them all in Christ.

Now I offer my single girlfriends advice: be discerning. The thing you may want the most could be the very thing that lures you away from God. 

Six things that will take you from pushover to powerhouse: 

1. Filter your feelings with prayer: They are a barometer. Your feelings—anger, fear, confusion—are a guide for your actions, like dashboard warning lights. Instead of acting on them, notice them, let them inform your plan, and then act if needed. Anger can create negative outcomes but can also be a catalyst out of harmful relationships or partnerships. Confusion is a caution flag to slow down in the moment. 

Fear can be the red flag warning you to take a big step back and review what’s in front of you through the filter of wisdom and prayer. 

2. Just say No. No isn’t a bad word. I used to beat myself up for saying no when asked for something. I enlist a 24-hour rule: I don’t give an answer immediately. I pause and pray. When someone continues to pressure me, then the answer is no. It’s a no to pressure and guilt, and a yes to peace and good decisions rooted in discernment and guided by prayer.

3. Shake the shame. Don’t blame yourself for anything you’ve been through or allowed yourself to be part of under the influence of a bully or gaslighter. The past is gone and what’s left are lessons. These are gold.

4. Recognize repetitive negative patterns. I recommend starting a journal to document the hurtful behaviors you’ve endured.  Don’t tie feelings to them. Let them simply remind you of the things you no longer have time for and help you recognize behaviors that you’ll want to stay away from. You’ll begin to recognize patterns. 

You wouldn’t want to leave a friendship because of one or two bad days, but be aware of the difference between a bad day and repeated negative behaviors. Repetition represents a pattern. A negative pattern of behavior without change is something you may want to evaluate and move away from.

5. Get accountability yourself with a small group of prayer warriors. My friend and coach Lori Roeleveld recommended I find a small circle of sisters I trust to cover me in prayer. If you don’t have this in your life, please round up a few trusted prayer warriors. You’ll thank me as I constantly thank Lori.

6. Journal. I keep a daily journal and began a new, clean notebook to record requests from people, clients, and organizations. Big or small, from money to time, I lay it all before God. At the end of every week, I reflect on decisions and am able to see what I can specifically praise God for. This keeps me in a spirit of gratitude and is a great reminder of what to do—and what not to do.

I used to think anger was bad; now I see how God used uncomfortable emotions to wake me up. I had to get a little angry at myself, and that healthy, brief moment of anger pushed me out of a pattern that was taking me down many wrong paths.

As you go forward, keep in mind the road to changing a lifetime of behavior patterns isn’t automatic or easy. Old habits die hard and you will go wrong. Give yourself grace and STICK TO YOUR NEW RULES. 

When in doubt, remember: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).

Now, get out there and live your best life.

JACQUELYN MARUSKA has over 30 years’ experience in brand development and public relations, guiding and coaching clients to advance their careers and dreams. Marushka Media is the first Latina-owned PR and Branding agency in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1995 she became the youngest vice president of Public Relations and Communications in the Sony Music Entertainment system, responsible for 40+ recording artists across five record labels. Her inspirational story is included in Leading Ladies: Discover Your God Grown Strategy for Success (Bold Vision Books) .

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